We’re writing this from our recently purchased house on the rain-hammered winter coast of Oregon. Sheets of water are lashing against our windows, and the wind threatens to rip off the storm door.
It’s a far cry from the GTs we were catching on Christmas Island a few weeks back in the warm sun. Now we’re here for the steelhead. Each season we guide winter-run steelhead in the heart of Oregon’s north coast. As a part of our dream, we created Frigate Travel, an outfitting company servicing and expanding a host of fishing destinations around the world. When steelhead season ends, the Sea of Cortez will lure us back for another season chasing and guiding roosterfish.
After Mexico, we’ll head back up to Alaska, specifically the Naknek River in Bristol Bay. For six seasons we have guided these waters. Like countless other fishing guides around the Northwest, it is how we’ve made our living and gained experience, spending day after day with clients, fickle boat motors, huge tidal pushes, crazy weather and fish – so many fish. Bristol Bay has all five species of Pacific salmon, giant rainbow trout, fat char, grayling, lake trout and northern pike. This is just the game fish; Bristol Bay’s waterfowl and upland hunting is off the hook. And big game hunters travel from around the world to this region for brown bear, caribou and moose. This place offers so many “experiences of a lifetime.” The region has helped us afford to build a small outfitting company with a solid client base who will fish with us around the Pacific.
The effort to protect Bristol Bay is so important to the economics of the outdoor industry. More than $100 million are spent annually in Bristol Bay on hunting and fishing. This industry employs more than 1,000 people within the region to include float plane pilots, chefs, fishing guides and lodge support staff. Travel companies, tackle manufacturers, boat builders, food suppliers, restaurant workers, even taxi services reap the benefits from the economic engine of Bristol Bay’s outdoor industry. This place consistently draws writers, photographers and filmmakers to tell the story of an untouched wilderness with amazing fishing.
Bristol Bay creates in all of us a deep sense of nostalgia for how our home waters used to be. The effort to stop the Pebble Mine threatening the Bristol Bay fishery with massive metallic sulfide settling ponds at the headwaters is finally coming to a head.
The EPA has a chance to protect this fishery hailed as the largest sockeye salmon run left in the world. The EPA can stop the proposal to construct the largest open pit copper mine ever proposed in Alaska (and potentially North America), at the headwaters of one of the world’s largest king salmon runs on the Nushagak River and the largest sockeye salmon run on the Kvichak River. The EPA can protect a fishery that provides a living for thousands of families as well as a thousand-year-old culture of subsistence.
We just bought our first home on the Oregon Coast because of our ability to fish so many steelhead streams and introduce our guests to this part of our world. Like most Alaska fishermen, our time in Bristol Bay provides us with a chance to start new businesses, buy homes, purchase new boats, and give back to the economy where we live. That is what working ecosystems are supposed to do.
Kate Taylor and Justin Crump own Frigate Travel and guide for Alaska Sportsman’s Bear Trail Lodge in King Salmon, Alaska. When not in Alaska, they live a block from a very cold beach on the north coast of Oregon or in a camper on the back of a Chevy somewhere on the Baja.